President Jacob Zuma joined South Africans in celebrating the 2016 Africa Day, calling for sustainable development on the continent.
As part of a myriad of events, Zuma hosted the Africa Day celebration at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday night. The event saw the culmination of the celebration of Africa Month in May.
Coinciding with African Liberation Day, Africa Day is celebrated annually on May 25 within the African continent to mark the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963 and the African Union (AU) in 2002 and the progress made by the continent since then to advance democracy, peace, stability and socio-economic development.
Africa needs to seek more sustainable development methods to improve the lives of people, Zuma said.
“Africa cannot be left behind in the age of the fourth industrial revolution. Sustainable development (that) we seek will come about through the use of modern technology and through improving education in the continent. We are a very youthful continent and investment in education and skills development will take Africa closer to the goals of sustainable development and an end to hunger, disease and deprivation,” said Zuma.
He said Africa is making steady progress towards that goal with the support of development partners from around the world.
“We want an Africa with modern infrastructure, where one can fly from one country to another within the continent, without having to go via Europe,” he said. “We want an Africa where people are able to drive or ride by rail from one country to another with greater ease.”
Africa, he said, shall accumulate machinery and establish steel works, iron foundries and factories; shall link the various states of the continent with communications by land, sea, and air.
“We shall cable from one place to another, phone from one place to the other and astound the world with our hydro-electric power; we shall drain marshes and swamps, clear infested areas, feed the undernourished, and rid our people of parasites and disease,” said Zuma.
In a statement prior to the event, Zuma said Africa Day provides an opportunity for Africans to celebrate their African identity.
South Africa rejoined the continent and the international community in 1994 following the end of apartheid. Africa Day 2016 will therefore mark the celebration of 22 years since the country’s reintegration into the OAU/AU and the international community.
South Africa was isolated for decades from the rest of the continent due to the evil system of apartheid colonialism.
“We are now a full member of the African continent, and since 1994, our continent is correctly the primary focus of our foreign policy,” said Zuma.
The president recalled that the OAU contributed immensely to the freedom in South Africa.
“Many countries in the continent provided refuge to many South Africans who went into exile and provided material, social, political and military support. Africa Day thus provides an opportunity to celebrate that African solidarity and to continue expressing it through the ongoing support for many in the continent who are caught up in conflict. It is a day for us to celebrate African solidarity, friendship, a common humanity and destiny,” said the president.
Held this year under the theme: “Building a better Africa and a Better World” South Africa will also use the day to reaffirm support for the AU’s Agenda 2063 and commit the country to playing its role within the AU to ensure the successful implementation of the vision and plan to build a better Africa.
South Africa contributes to peacekeeping and post-war reconstruction and development efforts in the continent, Zuma said.
South Africa also plays a key role in the economic development of the continent through the growing private sector investment in many countries within the continent.
The Africa Day celebratory gala dinner was attended by ambassadors and high commissioners from Africa and abroad, business leaders as well as ministers and other key stakeholders.